A Cactus Pear Compearison

The prickly pear is native to the U.S., so let’s try it.

While shopping at my local grocery store I noticed a sale on Cactus Pear, or as others call it, prickly pear.  I see them at the store often, but having never tried one I decided 3/$1 was a good price for an adventure.  Once the decision was made to make the purchase I had to figure out how to choose which ones to buy, and how to tell if they were ripe.  Red, yellow, green, and hard, a little give when squeezed, and downright soft.

A quick google search on my phone in the middle of the store (don’t worry I pulled my cart to the side) and I learned green are not ripe and not too hard or too soft.  So yellow and red are both ready to eat, possibly different varieties, let’s have a comparison!  I purchased two red and one yellow even though I could have just bought two and paid $0.66.

 

While cutting, the red had a vibrant colored juice, similar to beets but didn’t seem to stain my hands as much.  The yellow also quite juicy, but no staining, although the color too was vibrant.  I plated the cactus pears and presented them to the family for a fun comparison event.  My adventure began when I started to cut, the family’s adventure began when they picked them up for the first time.

Our goal not only was to try something new, but also to compare which color was sweeter, and to have fun.  Here is what we came up with:

Red Cactus Pear:

  • Lots of small seeds throughout
  • Tasted similar to a watermelon
  • Relatively sweet

Yellow Cactus Pear:

  • Lots of small seeds throughout
  • A general melon flavor, not as strong of a watermelon flavor
  • Sweeter than the red

A little bit of info about the Cactus Pear…

The prickly pear cactus goes by the plant name Opuntia spp. and is native to the American Southwest and Mexico.  The actual prickly pear fruit, sometimes called “tuna” in stores, is the part eaten, although all parts of the cactus can be eaten.  The pads of the cactus are called “nopal” or “nopalitos” when chopped up, and are eaten regularly in Mexican cuisine.  You can find the nopal cactus pads at most grocery stores that have a wide array of produce available.  I have used the nopalitos in the jar in some dishes to avoid worrying about the spines, ouch!  Many of the resources I used mentioned using the prickly pears diced or in smoothies, as well as other ways, however I found the many seeds to be a nuisance.  If adding to smoothies the seeds could easily be ground up with less worry, but other applications are much trickier.

I ended up pushing the fruit through a sieve to extract as much of the pulp and juice as possible without the seeds.  This was not an easy task and in the future I will just put it in my Nutribullet.  The extracted pulp and juice can be added to plain yogurt, smoothies, top pancakes or waffles, and anything else you can think of.  According to the USDA national nutrient database one piece of fruit contains almost 4g of fiber, 58mg of calcium, 227mg of potassium, and 14mg of vitamin C.  You can also purchase the juice and pulp already extracted for convenience.  I would beware of some products, however as they may have additional unwanted ingredients.  Enjoy your prickly pear adventure, I know we did!

Prickly Pear Juice 20170925_211114

Resources

https://www.desertusa.com/cactus/prickly-pear-cactus.html

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/cactus-pear-nutrition-selection-storage

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2360?manu=&fgcd=&ds=

http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/The_Kitchen_Garden/Feature_Vegetables/Prickly_Pear_Cactus/

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